Jeffrey LewisIran's Centrifuge Components

Back when experts were predicting 3,000 centrifuges at Natanz by the end of the July, I said I needed to see it to believe it.

There is no evidence that Iran can mass produce the components of 3,000 centrifuges. The Iranians can claim mass production, but I want to see the evidence that Iran can mass produce ball bearings and maraging steel bellows for the P1. Diplomats have been saying Iran imported enough components for about 1,000 to 2,000 centrifuges. So, my guess is that Iran can make today’s announcement with what they bought from AQ Khan; they may run into problems when they try to push past that number.

Well, it is the end of July, and …?

Reuters’ (no byline) cites “diplomats in Vienna” as saying that Iran maintains about 2,000 centrifuges—just where they were were a few months ago.

Now, Iran might have slowed down to take some of the political pressure off, but I wonder if has hit a wall. In which case, it was a good idea for them to declare “industrial scale” facilities a couple of months ago.

Related to that is an unconfirmed story that Swiss authorities seized a 500,000 Euro shipment of “parts” bound for a “nuclear plant” in Iran. Global Security Newswire and UPI cite a Jerusalem Post story, which in turn cites a sketchy Saudi newspaper, Al Watan. I haven’t been able to track down the original, or find confirmation from the Swiss. So, I’d call this “not proven” for now.


  1. MEC (History)

    Jeffrey, I agreed with you then and I agree with you now. Seeing is believing. I just tend to think that because they hit the technical wall, they viewed negotiation as a way to demonstrate their “commitment” toward diplomacy and alleviate what you call “some of the political pressure.”

  2. Canary

    500 million Euro shipment?!?!? I think you mean 500,000 Euro.

  3. Jeffrey Lewis (History)

    Whoops. Yeah. 0.5 million or 500,000 euro.

  4. spacemanafrica

    I’m glad to see JL’s ideas about Iran not having the ability to go much beyond the 2k centrifuges pan out (for now). He’s still terrible with numbers but his prescience more than makes up for it. 😉

    Does this portend some oncoming willingness for “negotiation” or possibly some loose agreement by the Iranians to slow certain developments or will the US see it for what it is and not give them something for nothing?

  5. MarkoB

    Or, in other words, enrichment programme slows but war talk goes up. Interesting inverse relationship.

  6. yale (History)

    The rough estimate for Iran by the end of July was 18 cascades (or 2952 centrifuges) versus the achieved 14 cascades (10 running hex, 2 in vacuum, and 2 in leak-testing) or 2296 centrifuges.

    Not exactly a quantum leap of difference.

    The existing 14 cascades produce an atomic bomb in spring of 2009 at 1 kgSWU/yrorspring of next year ar 2 SWU.

    Either posibility is frightening and demonstrates the farce of any official predictions of a next decade danger.

    Any additional cascade production shortens the lead-time proportionally.

  7. yale

    In addition to the 14 cascades in either production or ramp-up, the PFEP has (or had) two more cascades. The last publicly released inspection had one online and one “disconnected” – whatever that means.

    Thus Iran appears to have either 15 or 16 cascades (plus however many more being built) out of the projected 18.

    The Iranians have produced at least 2460 and possibly more than 2624 cascades, damn near the 2952 assumed target.

  8. Joe (History)

    I think Iran modified the design of the P1 so that they may not require the components you suggest. Iran leads the Middle East in the production of ball bearings and produces about 400 kinds of steel alloys so I don’t think that the parts you site are really a technical hurdle.